Child Care Crisis: Experts say not enough resources for parents
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Child care experts will tell you the Show-Me State has resources for parents looking for good child care, but it’s not enough. They say we have a long way to go to help families.
“Just finding an opening right now is insane. When you have to find an opening for two, that’s even harder,” said Whitney Williams, a parent of twins.
Williams and her husband work opposite schedules to watch their nine-month-old twins, Beckett and Brynnlee. Williams struggled to find a child care center. When she returned from maternity leave, she requested to work overnights.
“You come home and sleep for a couple of hours while they’re sleeping. Then when they wake up, you’re up. I nap when they nap. We need places to put our children so we can work,” said Williams.
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Parents typically start the search by word of mouth and online reviews. The state offers this database. It’s the Show Me Child Care Provider Search. Plug in your town, and you can read inspections, vetted complaints, and investigation reports. The newly formed Missouri Office of Childhood does this work. Centers get inspected every six months if they have the staff to do it.
“We went for a while with just doing yearly inspections. Staff shortages and all of that have come into play,” said Nancy Scherer with the Office of Childhood.
She says just this week, they got to full-staff. Child experts say we can do better. They’d like to see a more user-friendly rating system. Maybe something like Arkansas or North Carolina. Both have star ratings that are easy to read. You can learn about the owners of facilities, surprise visits, and if there are violations. All important information Missouri families could have at their fingertips.
“I would absolutely love to see that. That’s the quality rating system. That’s what we are looking to have done,” said Dana Carroll with Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
There’s a pilot program to improve the status quo. It’s called the Quality Assurance Report. This will give families a little more info about centers.
“Now we have to have providers engage with the state and back and forth to feed into what that system looks like because families need ways to identify quality,” said Robin Phillips with Child Care Aware of Missouri.
Even if you find a center you like, can you afford it?
“It’s like $600 a week for these two, plus my four-year-old. Nobody wants to spend $2,400 a month to have them watch their kid,” said Williams.
There are subsidies for low-income families. Parents pay a portion for care. The state covers the rest. Parents must reapply every year. The application process is not easy. Those who oversee the program say it gets confusing. State workers say they’re consolidating steps and trying to make it simple.
Even if a parent qualifies, it can still be expensive.
“If you’re poor and you’re struggling to make ends meet, you are still paying between $50 and $100 per week for child care,” said Carroll.
“Sometimes there’s a stigma with accessing state resources, so people don’t do it. In reality, it should be about that child and making sure that child has all the opportunities to be anything that child wants to be,” said Phillips.
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